User Generated Content: Tools and Techniques

Ian Lurie

As part of the Stump Ian series, Tom asks:

“What are the most promising new technologies for user-generated content and conversation on niche e-commerce sites? I’m considering, blogs, reviews, gift registries, wish lists as old hat.”

Technology: Mobile is Growing (slowly)

Tom, the technology I’m most excited about is mobile. At Portent we’ve experimented a bit with techniques that blend display advertising and user-generated content, like this:

  1. Create a simple poll, or ask a question that requires a brief answer.
  2. Put it into a display ad you show on a bus, in a subway, or just a T-Shirt ala Reactee.
  3. Use a gateway, so that answers sent via SMS text message are automatically added to the web site, or at least queued up for review and publication.
  4. As folks see the question, they text in an answer, and it shows up on the site.
  5. You can add interactivity, too: Have the system text the user back when their question’s been published, for example. Then they can visit the site via cell phone or computer and see their handiwork.

I love this technique. It shows huge promise. While text messaging is hardly mainstream, it accesses a really specific audience.

Technique: Amazon Mechanical Turk


If you haven’t learned about Amazon Mechanical Turk yet, you must. You can get literally hundreds of people to contribute content. Here’s how:

  1. Set up a Mechanical Turk requestor account.
  2. Post a question like ‘Write one thing you want to do before you’re 40’. You’ll need to pay folks anywhere from $.01 to $.25 for their answers.
  3. Watch great answers roll in.

A few Mechanical Turk pointers:

Make sure your question takes only a moment to answer.

Don’t cheat! Don’t use Mechanical Turk to get folks to Digg a story, for example.

Review and approve answers promptly.
Great question, Tom. Let me know if this helps.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. A lot of people don’t realize that branching out to other technologies that people readily embrace (like SMS) is a great way to get buy in for your site. You are capitalizing on an entire community of obsessed texters, and more than likely getting a bookmark or a subscription from them because of it.

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